corruption in high places

Bush can’t resist starting one more war before leaving office – iran, of course, says that the video is a fake…

Supreme Court Weighs Photo-ID Requirement for Voters – photo ID that costs money… but it’s not a poll tax, because there isn’t a fee for voting, just a fee to get the ID that means you can vote…

FBI Wiretaps Dropped Due to Unpaid Bills – didn’t i read a report about something like this a few months ago? well, in any event, it’s happened again…

why do we put up with things like this? it wasn’t that long ago that people were marching in the streets, demanding change (yes, i’m referring to the ’60s), and now we just lie down and let them roll over us! i do what i can, but i can’t do it alone by any stretch of the imagination, and the more i read of stuff like this, the more i am tempted to just abandon ship and go somewhere else.

Bush calls Iran ‘threat to world peace’
January 9, 2008

JERUSALEM (CNN) — The war of words between United States and Tehran continued Wednesday, with President Bush repeating his assertion that Iran is “a threat to world peace.”

The two countries have been trading accusations since a weekend confrontation involving Iranian boats and U.S. Navy warships in the Strait of Hormuz. The United States claims Iranian vessels deliberately sped toward its warships despite warnings to stay away.

Bush’s criticism of Iran came Wednesday during a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem. Bush is in the region to encourage the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

Bush called the incident “a very dangerous gesture” by Iran and warned the Islamic republic against any escalation.

“We have made it very clear, and they know our position, and that is: There will be serious consequences if they attack our ships, pure and simple.”

“My advice to them is: Don’t do it.”

Earlier in the day, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said the Sunday incident in the Strait of Hormuz almost triggered an exchange of fire — and if it happens again there may be a battle.

The Pentagon released dramatic video of Sunday’s encounter, which occurred in the narrow channel critical to the shipment of oil from the Persian Gulf. Iran’s navy said the video was faked, according to state-run media.

“It’s the kind of incident that can provoke exchange of fire,” Hadley said. “And we think the Iranians need to be on notice that they are fishing in troubled waters here.”

Hadley, speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One as Bush headed to Israel, said, “It almost involved an exchange of fire between our forces and Iranian forces,” but he stopped short of saying whether the U.S. Navy would have fired the first shots.

“This is not — this is a provocative act, not a smart thing to do, and they’re going to have to take responsibility for the consequences if they do it again,” Hadley said.

Vice Adm. Kevin Cosgriff, commander of the Bahrain-based U.S. 5th Fleet, said the U.S. ships received a “threatening” radio transmission indicating the boats were closing in on the U.S. ships and that the American vessels would “explode.” VideoWatch as the confrontation unfolds »

No shots were fired, and no one was hurt in the incident, which lasted about 20 minutes, the Defense Department said.

It began as the USS Port Royal, USS Hopper and USS Ingraham were traveling in formation after having finished a routine transit through the strait, the Navy said.

Five boats, suspected to be from the Islamic Republic of Iran Revolutionary Guard Navy, “maneuvered aggressively in close proximity of the Hopper,” the Navy said in a posting on its Web site.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon released a four-minute, 20-second videotape shot from the bridge of the USS Hopper showing five fast boats racing back and forth near the convoy.

An unidentified Navy crew member says over the radio: “This is coalition warship. I am engaged in transit passage in accordance with international law. I intend no harm. Over.”

The boats continued to race through the water even as the U.S. warship repeatedly sounded its horns.

“I am coming to you,” a deep, thickly accented voice says in English over the radio.

To that, an unidentified sailor aboard the Hopper, speaking into a radio, asks the boats to identify themselves and steer clear.

“Inbound small craft: You are approaching a coalition warship operating in international waters. Your identity is not known; your intentions are unclear,” he says.

“You may be subject to defensive measures. Request that you establish communications now or alter your course immediately to remain clear.”

Immediately afterward, an accented voice says, “You will explode in a few minutes.”

It was not clear, however, that the voice was coming from any of the boats, said Cmdr. Lydia Robertson, the 5th Fleet spokeswoman in Bahrain. It could have come from another ship in the area or from shore, she said.

“We don’t have a direct connection, but it’s not necessarily a disconnect,” she said.

Nor was it clear that the boats indeed belonged to the Revolutionary Guard Navy, she acknowledged. “We believe they are,” she said, adding that “at least one had an Iranian flag.”

But Chris Madden, the Navy’s visual news director, said no Iranian flags were visible in the video.

Robertson said estimates of the boats’ nearest proximity to the warships range from 200 to 500 yards. She called the fast boats’ actions “unsafe, unnecessary and unprofessional.”

Though it was not clear that they were indeed boats belonging to the Revolutionary Guard Navy, “we believe they are,” she said, noting that “at least one had an Iranian flag.”

Though the video does not show it, at least one of the boats dropped about five or six objects that looked like boxes into the water, where they floated, Robertson said.

The U.S. naval commanders did not pick them up “because they did not know what they were,” she said.

Iran’s state-run Press TV quoted a spokesman for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Navy as saying Wednesday that the video “had been compiled using file pictures and the audio had been fabricated.”

An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman downplayed the incident, calling it “normal,” state-run news agency IRNA reported. “The case … was similar to the past ones and it was a regular and natural issue,” Mohammad-Ali Hosseini said, according to the news agency.

Supreme Court Weighs Photo-ID Requirement for Voters
Jan. 9, 2008
By Keith Perine

Although neither political party yet knows who its presidential nominee will be this year, the Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a pair of cases that could affect the outcome of a close contest.

The cases, Crawford v. Marion County Election Board and Indiana Democratic Party v. Rokita, test the constitutionality of an Indiana law requiring voters to show photo identifcation at the polls. The high court will weigh the state’s interest in preventing voter fraud against the burden placed on voters who do not have photo IDs.

A decision is expected during the heat of the presidential election campaign next summer, against a backdrop of various new election laws passed across the country after the disputed 2000 election.

Opponents say the Indiana law unfairly burdens poor and the elderly, voters who tend to favor Democrats but are least likely to have driver’s licenses. Proponents counter that Indiana’s interest in preventing voter impersonation fraud outweighs whatever burden might be placed on a small number of people. Non-drivers can obtain official photo ID cards, they note.

Few of the justices, especially swing vote Anthony M. Kennedy , gave many clues during the hourlong oral arguments as to which way they were leaning.

Justice Antonin Scalia pressed the attorney for the challengers, Paul M. Smith, about whether his clients, including the Indiana Democratic Party, had legal standing to bring the case. An Indiana federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit both ruled in favor of the law after concluding that the challengers did have standing. But Scalia observed that “the lower courts are sometimes wrong” and “these [voters] can bring their own individual challenges.”

Smith argued that the Indiana Democratic Party has standing because it “clearly is injured in its own right as an organization” by the law. He pointed out that there is “not a single recorded example of voter impersonation” in Indiana to justify the law.

Kennedy focused on whether Indiana could devise some “less stringent” way of preventing voter fraud. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg raised the possibility of providing photo identification to voters when they register.

Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher, who defended the law before the court, seized on the standing issue, telling the court that “we don’t have anybody in front of this court in this case who has been injured by this law.”

The Justice Department has sided with Indiana, supporting its statute. U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement told the court that the law is constitutional. He also said the court should reject the broad “facial challenge” to the law and wait for an “as-applied challenge” by a specific voter without a photo ID who was prevented from casting a ballot.

Smith said that would force the court to sort through myriad challenges, case by case, to decide whether a particular voter had standing.

“To paraphrase King Lear, that way lies madness,” Smith said.

Outside the court, Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker said the law is “a solution looking for a problem.” Fisher said there is a “glaring hole in the election security process,” adding that “we’ve got a problem with voter confidence.”

FBI Wiretaps Dropped Due to Unpaid Bills
January 10, 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) — Telephone companies cut off FBI wiretaps used to eavesdrop on suspected criminals because of the bureau’s repeated failures to pay phone bills on time, according to a Justice Department audit released Thursday.

The faulty bookkeeping is part of what the audit, by the Justice Department’s inspector general, described as the FBI’s lax oversight of money used in undercover investigations. Poor supervision of the program also allowed one agent to steal $25,000, the audit said.

More than half of 990 bills to pay for telecommunication surveillance in five unidentified FBI field offices were not paid on time, the report shows. In one office alone, unpaid costs for wiretaps from one phone company totaled $66,000.

And at least once, a wiretap used in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act investigation — the highly secretive and sensitive cases that allow eavesdropping on suspected terrorists or spies — “was halted due to untimely payment.”

“We also found that late payments have resulted in telecommunications carriers actually disconnecting phone lines established to deliver surveillance results to the FBI, resulting in lost evidence,” according to the audit by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine.